Feb. 2, 1963 - They call themselves Hell’s Angels. Their symbol is the grinning Death’s Head. Perhaps you’ve seen them on the highways of California — young men astride powerful motorcycles, some of them bearded, some wearing pirate-style earrings. And you may have dismissed them as motorized nuisances, unsavory-looking thrill seekers. But this week, four Angels were charged with the rape of a young woman in Oakland, and police found a Nazi flag and a picture of Hitler hanging on the wall of their East 14th Street headquarters. By conservative estimate, at least 300 motorcyclists in California call themselves Hell’s Angels. However, one police agency with extensive intelligence files puts the figure at 300 in the Bay Area alone. Most major cities in California now have a Hell’s Angels contingent. They’ve also been reported in Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada. As far as police agencies have been able to determine, there is no central authority. Local leaders like Frank Sadilek, president of the San Francisco Hell’s Angels, and Ralph Barger, president of the Oakland club, say each unit is independent, maintaining friendly but informal relations with other clubs. Whether or not there is a formal, state-wide organization, there certainly is a kinship of spirit among the men and the few women who wear the Death’s Head emblem. But just what is that spirit? Police say it is the spirit of the non-conformist, exhibitionist, anti-social mob — and that riot rides tandem with the Angels. And citizens whose communities the Angels have visited say it is the spirit of violence and terror.
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